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Albanian minister explains decision to welcome Eritrean refugees

The Albanian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati (pictured above) has told the BBC that one of the reasons behind the country’s decision to accept 20 Eritrean refugees was partly due to the country’s own refugee crisis of 1996 and 1997, when tens of thousands crammed onto ships bound for Italy to escape a political and economic crisis which threatened to bring anarchy to the country.

“We took this decision after long discussions with the Italian authorities because they were asking for our support in this endeavour,” said Mr Bushati. “It coincides with a position Albania took four years ago, when the refugee crisis started, that all countries in Europe, regardless whether they are part of the EU or not, should contribute somehow to the migration crisis, because this is a European crisis and requires a European response.

“Two decades ago Italy saved us, when it received many Albanians during dramatic times. Now it is our turn to make a contribution. I know very well that people have criticised us, saying that these are not Italians, they are Eritreans. But first and foremost we are talking about people, about human beings.”

Mr Bushati was also critical of those eastern European countries which he believes have not done enough for refugees, and who he accused of “forgetting their history.”

“Many people fled communism in the eastern part of Europe and went west,” he said, before adding: “I think this is a message for the European Union, that we need a more coherent view and a more coherent response to such important issues, even from the perspective of an EU candidate country, such as Albania.”

The 20 Eritreans were amongst a total of around 150 who had been stranded on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea for 10 days before finally being  allowed to disembark in Catania, Italy, on August 25. Italy’s extremist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had refused to let the ship dock until he had received assurances that they would not incur any expense to the Italian taxpayer. As well as Albania, Ireland and the Catholic church in Italy have agreed to offer them shelter.

Eritrea is one of the world’s most repressive states, where most adults are forcibly enrolled into the army for an indefinite period which can often last for decades.

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  • Firstly, the Albanian government has to be appreciated for its humanitarian gesture. Regardless of the dynamic of the refugee crisis, it cannot go without mention the support given by various Italian administrations and the people across the EU who hosted refugees from the Horn of Africa region and elsewhere.

    Regarding the last sentence which has been widely used in the media for the last ten years, presenting Eritrea as a repressive state, is tantamount to blaming the victim. Eritrea until recently had no choice but to defend itself from the threats of a larger neighbour which has had an unconditional support from the West. Ethiopia emboldened by certain myopic Western interests, which also pushed for an illegal sanction against Eritrea, had been dragging its feet from implementing the border verdict. It is under such UNJUST dire circumstances that Eritrea found itself and finally resulted in the flow of refugees to Europe.

    Besides, the same Western interests which were hostile to Eritrea, had not only aided Ethiopia in its “expansionist” ambitions, but also facilitated the designation of an automatic refugee status to any one who claims to be Eritrean. Well, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Somalis even West Africans have been claiming refugees status under bogus Eritrean identity.

    It is a different topic to discuss on what ensued in Europe and the US as a consequence of such myopic policies towards the Horn region and elsewhere. Now, that a new peace making initiatives and deals are fast taking place in the Horn region, it is expected of the concerned institutions in the EU and the US to give support to such constructive efforts for a lasting solution that benefits ALL.

    • Cut the crab mate! these people why Refugees are risking their live to reach Europe and they have well documented cases of the crimes that the Military Junta in Eritrea committed against it is own people not against Ethiopian or Westerners.